How to Unshackle from the Standards of Old and Ignite the NFT World
The explosive popularity of LOOT has revealed the limitless possibilities of NFTs, but the yoke of old NFT standards constrained the growth of metaverse. A new EIP-3664 standard could make NFTs reusable and upgradable, transforming them into a driving force for NFT combinability.
The threshold of NFT and FT differentiation
When we mention Metaverse, imagination sparks. For instance, we imagine a world where all the props between Metaverses can be interconnected and communicate, where every NFT can freely roam in all Metaverses. Yet dreamers do not make worlds.
How might one turn this vision into reality?
We welcome all Metaverse players to the future of EIP-3664 — no technical jargon, just clarity for the readers.
GameFi games such as Axie Infinity often deploy protocols such as ERC-721 or ERC-1155. For example, Axie deploys ERC-721 to define roles, but since it records all metadata in a smart contract, roles cannot be upgraded except through a breeding solution where players feel continued involvement and upgrade. If other games want to make their NFT upgradable, they typically rely on external storage to record all properties and functionalities outside of the smart contract and read the data through a port. Only a graphic URI or an external link URI remain on the blockchain. This manner of upgrading is blasphemy against the idea of a smart contract, as if it is concealing a pseudo-decentralization in a decentralized device, where all information is recorded into this off-chain monstrosity.
Rather than suffering his blasphemy, why not define a prop or a role in an entirely decentralized manner?
The fundamental problem is not ERC-721 or ERC-1155 per se, but the abuse of such standards. During the nascent days of ERC-721, this standard focused on the differentiation between NFT and FT, which was indispensable in the early days of blockchain. When ERC-721 entered the scene, NFT came of age and blossomed. Many methods currently exist to enhance the extendability of NFT, including sharding, pledging, lending, etc. but most have neglected the critical issue of whether we need to separate specific functionalities in the differentiation between NFT and FT.
The world is nuanced beyond black and white. In order to realize the Metaverse vision, simulating the real word is the overriding priority, not the differentiation between NFT and FT. The real world contains a number of collectibles, including many unique works of art, which belong to the same NFT category. In the early days of cryptocurrencies, we can see that from very early on blockchain technology was made for decentralized finance, and we can see that such currencies in the financial sense naturally fall under the FT category. However, if we obsess over the differences between the two, we tend to make NFT and FT black and white, i.e. completely the same or completely different. Such is not how the world is.
“I see that my friend carries the same cell phone as mine.”
The sameness here does not refer to sameness in identity or complete likeness, but sameness in functionality or model. Up until now, existing protocols can almost perfectly describe this kind of context. But a problem now arises — if my cell phone battery needs placement or a recharge (i.e. an increase in electrical metric), these functionalities cannot alter NFT’s ID, but necessitate changes in its inherent attributes. The seemingly outdated ERC can no longer address this problem. We need a new standard that not only simulates the Metaverse but can also serve as its cornerstone in the virtual world. EIP-3664 and its first application context emerge: the RPG Cradles set in the prehistoric era.
What is EIP-3664？
The DRepublic team proposed EIP-3664 in May, 2021. They ingeniously solved the problem that existing NFT protocols (such as ERC-721 or ERC-1155) cannot adequately reflect inherent attributes, which in turn caused issues of incompatibility between NFTs and centralized storage. This protocol made possible the dynamic extension of NFT attributes.
NFT attributes extension protocol (EIP-3664) need not modify existing ERC-721 and ERC-1155 protocols, and support attaching attributes to an NFT through NFT mint methodology such as IERC-721 Receiver or call back function such as IERC-1155 Receiver. It can also attach attributes by defining them through override mint methodology. A single NFT can arbitrarily attach an unlimited number of attributes.
All attributes in EIP-3664 enable the IERC-3664 interface. Basic attributes include basic fields such as ID, Name, Symbol, URI, Balance. From the above it is plainly clear that ERC-3664 has tokenized the attributes, or even that each attribute has become an NFT, spawning the concept of a sub-NFT, or NFT embedded in another NFT. This property seemed simplistic, but in fact supplied an infinite variety of attributes for the NFT, and broadened the applicability of the NFT. Attribute renewal, transfer, evolution and all other updates can be implemented through extending the basic ERC-3664 protocol.
Currently EIP-3664 has implemented six core attribute operations: upgradability, modifiability, addibility, removability, deconstructability and combinability.
The author here will propose a few possible contexts for developers to consider.
EIP-3664 has enabled inspiring functionality: NFT attributes are now upgradable, modifiable, addible, removable, deconstructible and combinable. Now a new NFT standard that supports complete decentralization is born. Users can define a powerful gaming NFT with tiering, upgrades and combinability through smart contracts only, and at the same time can define NFT with mutable attributes, much like a set of NFT Lego blocks, in order to assemble gaming props, more importantly, a new concept of MetaNFT has emerged. It is the most elegant solution to decentralized logistics protocol.
The concept of MetaNFT was proposed by the DRepublic team in February this year, referring to the basic elements to comprise all other NFTs, and the fundamental NFTs that comprise various NFTs in the Metaverse. MetaNFT is the true DNA that makes any NFT.
The explosive popularity of Loot illustrates this concept. The thinking and roadmap behind Loot point in the right direction, but lacks innovation in coding. The immutable nature of 721 prevents the upgrade of existing Loot. For instance, +1 equipment can never be upgraded. In gaming parlance, all players can only ever play with the same equipment, fight the same monsters with the same level of weaponry. Even if the appearance can change, equipment and levels can never change. If this sounds dismal, Loot also completely relies on players’ interpretation of Loot’s outward appearance. This seems like an act of laziness, as roles can never change. The community’s imagination cannot soar beyond existing roles. We concur with Vitalik that “pretty much anything that anyone creates “exists”, what matters is to what extent other people build upon it.“ The power of community is immense, and can endow mundane objects with great value. Loot, on the other hand, clearly does not empower the community sufficiently to “build upon it”. Hence Loot does not qualify as the hallmark of the next NFT era.
MetaNFT that supports free combination, arbitrary assembly and attributes upgrade opens up creative space and imagination for everyone, and can ultimately sustain a new era of NFT application.
The contrast between Ultraman and the free assembly Gundam perhaps serves as the most intuitive illustration of how Loot differs from the gaming props based on EIP-3664.
As a one-piece toy, Ultraman does not support assembly and disaggregation. Every part is fixed. In contrast, Gundam and other more interesting free assembly models support parts upgrade, assembly, coloration, etc. That is the future path of NFT. MetaNFT does not only meet all functionalities of Loot (which aren’t that many). It can support many more, such as custom defined parts, attributes, coloration and appearance. The rigid Ultraman can only throw the same punch again and again, repeating its moves on the monster. Only the agible Gundam can equip itself with electromagnetic cannons, throwing open the gates to Metaverse and MetaNFT.
We shall provide two application contexts for consideration.
NFT Disaggregation Protocol
In order to form the fundamental ontology of a Metaverse, we need a standard that completely simulates all objects in the real world. This standard must mirror all real world attributes on the blockchain, such as the combination and disaggregation of objects (as opposed to sharding), the alteration of an object’s nature and attributes (rather than the object itself), or even object phenomena that pass with time such as weathering, rusting and decay. Once these wondrous attributes can exist on the blockchain, it would signify that all combination and disaggregation serve the purpose of creating a more valuable and more powerful NFT. The value lies not only in the combination of NFTs (two NFTs combine to release synergy, 1+1=2 or 1+1=2.5) but far more in how valuable things combine to exceed the sum of all their parts — .
The combination and disaggregation of NFTs do not aim for more expensive NFT for people to purchase, but rather for spawning unique functionality that arises from combination and disaggregation. Disaggregating the Gundam is for upgrading its parts to accomplish a more splendid and powerful Gundam, and not just for sharding it into pieces for sale. Combining the electromagnetic torpedoes with Gundam is not for a bundled sale, but to make a Gundam with more powerful weapons to fend off its enemies.
(Note that the most critical point regarding the disaggregation protocol is that it serves to enhance the attributes and value of the NFT and hence the logic of upgrading plays a central role.)
NFT disaggregation endows every NFT component with meaning, and every disaggregated NFT component with meaning. As the formula shows, the utility value of NFT is maximized by the disaggregation protocol, and enhances the value of the new product aggregated by different NFTs beyond its speculative value.
NFT Logistics Protocol
The DRepublic team is developing a new logistics protocol aimed at NFTs: MetaExpress. Once the functionality of MetaNFT falls in place, another future protocol naturally arises, that is using the MetaNFT to concatenate the old standard, allowing NFTs to flow freely with the MetaNFT standard.
If we consider a Metaverse a sovereign country, then it is a model of logistics that connects all Metaverses and lets NFTs flow freely between them. Hence, the DRepublic team proposes a second kind of NFT protocol: logistics protocol. The DRepublic team recommends all logistics protocols to focus on three key points:
- Standard compatibility — Logistics protocols must allow compatibility between mid-tier NFTs and lower level NFT protocols, and remain sufficiently flexible to allow for changes in attributes to adapt to different Metaverses.
- Interface adaptability — Logistics protocol must focus on every Metaverse’s interface standard and attribute definition standard, and enable collaboration with each other by encoding mirroring rules in the protocol. Only those logistics protocols that NFT creators and brands can conveniently deploy will interface with Metaverses.
- Mirroring uniqueness — Every Metaverse’s mirroring rules must remain consistent, that is maintaining external and internal consistency for Metaverse interfaces, facilitating all NFTs to reasonably mirror from and into the Metaverse.
If the three conditions above are met, the basic framework of the logistics protocol falls into place. Specific business requirements will depend on the attributes of each Metaverse, prop type, attribute value range. We will not address them here.
The present article discussed the limitations of the old NFT standards, the hybrid nature of EIP-3664 as well as the direction and necessary attributes of MetaNFT proposed by the DRepublic team.
Simple combinations and information records are meaningless. Reusable, upgradable, combinable parts can provide the driving force for such combinations, thus enhancing utility rather than speculative value. Towards the end of the article, we propose two possible application layer protocols: disaggregation protocol and logistics protocol. These two protocols can lay the foundation of supporting free flow between Metaverses, and could hopefully be called the next era infrastructure for Metaverses. They leave the reader with room to imagine and executable technical roadmaps.
Finally, we are on a path to liberalization, whether for NFTs or objects in the virtual world. The standards of old shall fade and the new shall settle in their stead. We will no longer be caged by rigid immutability, but shall embrace free changeability, upgradability and combinability. Dante cast the old world aside and a new age dawned. In the world of Metaverses, we proposed new standards but the gates to a new world shall be ushered in by all the residents of Metaverses. We shall all rejoice for the coming of the age of the MetaNFT.
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